COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Police said breakaway Moro rebels occupying villages in Pikit, North Cotabato, burned houses Tuesday morning, February 17, in the village of Barungis.
Senior Police Officer 3 Norudin Solaiman, Pikit town police chief, said that members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), set on fire at least 20 houses.
“When they seized the village, they burned all the houses they saw,” he said. The residents did not fight back, the police chief added.
Solaiman said the area is under the control of members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), another rebel movement that signed a peace pact with the Ramos administration in the 1990s.
Earlier, the military said more than 250 BIFF rebels seized two villages in Pikit, forcing hundreds to evacuate. Another firefight broke out last weekend in a village in Pagalungan, Maguindanao. The towns of Pikit and Pagalungan now play host to evacuees.
Skirmishes between BIFF and MILF started since February 13, more than two weeks after police commandos attacked a nearby province controlled by both groups that left 44 policemen, 18 Moro rebels and at least 3 civilians dead.
The Mamasapano clash threatens to ruin the peace process between the Aquino government and the MILF, which, as part of its commitment, helps soldiers run after the BIFF.
Opposed to the peace process, the BIFF broke away from the MILF in 2010. – Jeoffrey Maitem/Rappler.com